July 6, 2018

Dog owner pets her dog

Petting for Just 15 Minutes a Day Improves Canine Wellbeing

Those fortunate enough to own a dog will know that they thrive on receiving attention but what does this mean for those in shelters? Although shelter animals are usually well cared for, these centres can be short on resources so are often concerned about their canine residents getting enough petting each day.

However, research carried out by Nestle Purina Research and featured in the latest edition of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, shows that just 15 minutes of one-to-one petting can yield a positive behavioural and psychological response from dogs. So if shelters are managing to dedicate at least a quarter of an hour individual attention to each of their residents, then they are making significant in-roads in safeguarding the dogs’ mental health.

Of the dogs used for the research, 23 were female and 32 were male. The volunteers used for the research were two males and three females aged between 22 and 27. They all with previous experience caring for dogs and cats.

A collective of different breeds were used, each with their own natural characteristics. This is because some breeds may be calm by nature, whereas others may be a little more active.

How the Research Was Carried Out

Each of the volunteers had a one-to-one petting session with each dog consisting of 15 minutes. The following petting techniques were used:

  • Slow strokes along the dog’s body.
  • Scratching the dog behind the ear.
  • Petting an area more when the dog enjoyed it.
  • Scratching the base of the tail.
What the Research Shows

The behaviour of the dogs was assessed at the start and at the end of the petting session. Findings showed that behaviour of the dogs was improved at the end of the session when compared to the beginning. A decrease in heart rate was also noted.

So human interaction with a shelter dog for 15 minutes will often result in the dog becoming calmer and adopting a happier persona.

This shows how shelter dogs have their chances of finding a new home increased. If a dog isn’t getting the interaction it craves, it won’t present as the happy potential pet people are looking for. Meanwhile dogs that receive daily human attention, even for just 15 minutes, are happier and friendlier. This puts them in a better position to find a new home.

Dog shelters can advise on these methods when a dog is re-homed too. This will help the new owners bond with the dog and keep it calm when it arrives in its new home.

Dog shelters can sometimes become overwhelmed with new arrivals, so there can be staff shortages. Fortunately, there are many volunteers only too happy to contribute their time to make a difference. There are many charities that volunteers can approach to donate their time, including the Merseyside Dog’s Home and Merseyside Dog’s Trust.  

Exclusive individual petting sessions

Although the research was carried out with dogs housed in a shelter, the principle applies to our own pets. They too greatly benefit from a 15-minute session of bonding time with their owners. Many owners may feel that they already interact with their pet on a regular basis. But ensuring this is an exclusive one-to-one session is the key to a happier, calmer dog.

At Tails in the City, our staff are trained to give your pet plenty of individual attention. Contact us to find out more about how we prioritise our doggy clients’ mental health.